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Thursday, 25 June 2015

Walk 133 Thurlestone to Bigbury-on-Sea and beyond (Devon)

Walk 133 Thurlestone to Bigbury-on-sea and beyond (Devon)

(Second leg of English coastal walk – Broadstairs to Lands End)

Map: L/R 202
Distance: 10 miles or 18 km but this depends on how far you walk round and the extent to which Burgh Island is explored.
Difficulty: moderate to challenging – cliff path, some steep climbs
Terrain: coastal cliff path
Access: Parking at both ends
Public transport: As far as I can see this is not possible. Taxis one way back to a car seems the only option. A ferry is required to cross the River Avon during this walk.

Walk from Thurlestone to the coastal path – the path passes across a golf course or you can go along the road. There are some attractive sandy coves on the walk to Bantham.

Look out for the impressive boat house at Bantham which looks out on to the River Avon – pronounced locally as 'Awn'. To get to the other side you will need to use the ferry (one friendly man in a small boat with an outboard motor). It runs for an hour in the morning 10-11 and 3-4 in the afternoon except for Sundays. It is also seasonal, operating between April and September. As there is no alternative way of getting across it would be sensible to check before starting the walk: 01548856347 or 07811385725.

Once over the other side follow the path around to Bigbury-on-Sea with its large sandy beach. At the start of the twentieth century it was just a few fisherman's cottages but is now a popular destination particularly for those interested in water sports or for visiting Burgh Island opposite.

Opposite to Bigbury is Burgh Island which can be walked to via a causeway or, when the tide make this too difficult, by sea tractor. The island has strong associations with Agatha Christie. The prominent art-deco hotel provided a background to several of her novels including the Poirot story 'Evil under the sun'. Famous visitors to the hotel have included Churchill, Noel Coward, The Beatles
and The Duke of Windsor with Mrs Simpson. The island was completely cut off in World War 2 because there was a the Germans would use the causeway to attack the mainland. The ruin on top of the hill, which can be walked up to, was once a chapel and later became a hewer's hut. A man was employed to raise a hue and cry to alert local fishermen when a shoal of fish was spotted. In the 1880s it was said that 12 million fish could be caught in a day but they suddenly stopped coming. Who can blame them? If you fancy a drink try The Pilchard Inn which dates from 1336 and is said to be haunted by a smuggler shot dead on the island.

Back on the main land continue the walk to Challaborough - its attractive beach is very popular with surfers because of the sea's powerful waves.

Photos: The boats house at Bantham; the sea tractor to Burgh Island

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